Tuesday 12 November 2013

Joint British Council and Pratham-ASER Report reveals trends in English language performance

A new report released today (12 November 2013) provides the first in-depth analysis of English teaching and skills of primary aged children in India.

The joint study between the British Council and Pratham, India’s largest NGO working on primary education, analyses data on basic English abilities of children collected in the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). The analysis gives unparalleled insight into the role of English in the country’s primary school sector.

As a piece of research useful in terms of cultural relations and its ability to inform the UK knowledge economy, key findings and suggestions include:

  •   Being multilingual has considerable social, educational and long-term cognitive/medical benefits for a child;
  • English should be seen as a ‘key language’ in India but the importance of other languages should not be overlooked;
  • The methodology and pedagogy of teaching English in India should use general guiding principles which allow language teaching to be implemented according to local needs and resources;
  • A strong positive relationship seems to exist between the level of reading performance in the language of school instruction and a student’s English language performance.

The report also details the ASER tools used to conduct the research and looks to future ways in which further understanding of Indian education can help inform policy recommendations in this area.

Commenting on the report, Alison Barrett, Director, English for Education Systems, South Asia at the British Council said: "As perhaps the United Kingdom’s greatest international asset, understanding the role of the English language and how it is taught across the world is vital for the work we do.

"Innovative research such as this gives us important insight into the Indian education system and allows us to better understand how we can progress English Language Teaching in the region. The British Council is committed to improving access to English in India and we hope that our aim to work with up to 1.5 million teachers of English in the country will continue to positively build the growing relationship between the UK and India."

Rukmini Banerji, who leads on the ASER report at Pratham, added: "In reaching over 600,000 children each year, ASER is the largest annual data set in India that collects information on children's basic reading ability and arithmetic. Undoubtedly, it is the largest source of data on basic English for children in India.

“Looking at the evidence it is essential that we review and rework our expectations and our teaching-learning practices to fit with what children can do and what, as a country, we want them to learn. 

“We believe that in a multi-lingual country like India we should think about reading in the broadest sense - reading in the regional or local language is as important as the ability to read in an international language like English. The evidence also shows that children's competence and confidence in one language strongly influences their capability in other languages so it is vital that the power of these links is considered within the context of language teaching.” 

A full copy of the report is available at http://www.britishcouncil.in/sites/britishcouncil.in2/files/english_impact_report_2013.pdf

Notes to Editor

For more information, please contact Kristen McNicoll in the British Council Press Office on +44 (0)207 389 4967 or kristen.mcnicoll@britishcouncil.org

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the Arts and delivering education and society programmes.


We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which last year was £781m. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.


For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org. You can also keep in touch with the British Council through http://twitter.com/britishcouncil and http://blog.britishcouncil.org/.